We answer your burning questions about life and love in sobriety.
My girlfriends planned a 3-day weekend trip to Vegas for my BFF’s bachelorette. They all know I’m sober now, and are generally supportive and accepting of it. But I’m worried I’m not going to have the mental capacity, enthusiasm, or endurance for late night shenanigans where everyone else is drunk. I’m about early bedtime and early morning hikes now. Honestly, Vegas seems like a sober person’s worst nightmare.
I don’t want to miss out on a key event in someone’s life who is truly important to me, but I’m afraid of being triggered, miserable, and worst of all, a long way from home! Am I just supposed to not go? I feel like such a square!!
Leaving Las Vegas?
Ah, Las Vegas. The city that, while drunk, feels like a neon-lit paradise where anything is possible. While sober, though, it can more closely resemble a carnival funhouse replete with scary clowns and jump scares (oh, and very little natural ventilation). I understand your trepidation about spending time in this wonderland for the wasted. But I do think you can make the best of this trip, that is, of course, if you’re really set on going.
You can still celebrate with your loved ones while prioritizing your sobriety and mental health. But this kind of trip calls for lots and lots of self-care backup. The difference between a good and bad time can be, simply, setting boundaries. That’s right, what we’re not gonna do is revert to our pre-sobriety behavior, aka “going with the flow” and being agreeable to absolutely everything without considering if it’s in our best interest. Yes, you will compromise on things like group meals and scheduled activities, but your trip doesn’t have to be exactly the same as everyone else’s just because you’re there for the same reason. You are allowed to sit out the “bottomless” part of brunch in lieu of a massage. You’re allowed to dip early from the bottle service experience and get a good night’s sleep — then wake up to swim in the hotel pool when everyone else is nursing a hangover. There are tons of offerings for people who aren’t just there to get hammered. There’s shopping, high-end spas, shows, amusement parks… and you don’t need alcohol to enjoy the splendor of the classic Vegas buffet.
You are there for your friend, of course– so when you are with the group, participate fully, and stay present even if everyone else is tanked. This is a bachelorette weekend. When you’re with the gals, delve in fully and let yourself have FUN! There’s a specific dread that can accompany social experiences that actually sets you up to fail. Meaning, if you head out to Vegas fearing the worst, you’re going to be uptight and weird no matter what. Try not to take it so seriously; if it sucks, it’s a learning experience. This attitude alone will loosen you up and make you more accepting and adaptable to whatever is happening around you. Sometimes I set the intention before social gatherings to just stop judging and try to engage in every moment fully. So put on that silly crown, do the scavenger hunt, and tip the stripper! You can leave if and when shit gets weird for you. My personal tactic of being open to what’s actually going on vs my fear of what’s going on? I tell myself I’ll go, but I get to leave after exactly one hour. Whenever I do this, events magically turn from daunting to “Yeah, I can do that”, and I usually end up having so much more fun (thanks to the lowered anxiety) that I ironically end up staying longer, and no one is the wiser about my cute commitment to myself (or that at one point the thought of attending made me physically nauseous).
Most importantly, I’ll remind you to trust your gut about this trip. It’s completely fine if you just don’t want to go. In early sobriety, it can be new and confusing to identify what we actually want and need. Are you into this? Or do you just feel obligated? Although there are growing pains, sobriety forces you to really get to know yourself and your preferences. That’s a good thing. If nothing about the trip appeals to you, you can offer to celebrate your friend’s upcoming nuptials in a creative way on your home turf– a low-key girls night, a cute dinner, tickets to an event she would never buy for herself. Something that speaks to the intimacy of your friendship and specific history together. A thoughtful gesture like this can go much further than your squeamish presence at a nightclub ever could! Because your friend, I assume, wants you to be your best, truest self– not triggered, anxious, or disassociating because Susie with the Stoli breath has cornered you to tell you about her plan to open a bar and grill that “does things a little differently.”
The best part of this “dilemma” is that you get to practice one of the best parts of being sober, and that is getting closer to who you really are. You might love a weekend like this, but you don’t know, because you haven’t tried. You might find that you have more energy and capacity for fun than you ever did drunk. So stay open. Sobriety is about self discovery, and whatever you decide here (spoiler: there is no wrong decision), you will uncover more about yourself and your truth. And that’s a win/win.